The Best Parts
Come when you've got everything squared away. It has probably been more or less so for main winter festivities since we used mammoth tusks for tent poles. Squared away, as in a presentable abode and comestibles arrayed an hour or hopefully more before a brood of family and friends arrive for a party. In our case for Christmas Eve, and as the duck said in the movie 'Babe,' Christmas means carnage.
However achieved, the best parts come when you find yourself relaxing and reflecting on good fortune. There's that point where you think, "It is done. Ready. Chaos lurks, but let not perfection be the enemy of the good. Disapprove of the downstairs bathroom disarray as you will. Screaming children, all you crazed little wanting machines and rug-rats, come and do your worst."
Foods are best simple, easily wolfed down. The freshest finest bagels available can serve as vehicles for a commanding centerpiece of fat and salt, for example cream cheese Grandma mixed with Grandpa's toothsome smoked salmon. Chips of both kinds (potato and tortilla), salsas and dips, veggies crackers basic wines and beers fill out a conveniently accessed table. Prime rib is fine, but nobody really expects or requires more than peasantries, those foods which first tend to dance in the imagination if cruel circumstance ever conspires to make us prisoners. Speaking of which, guests unaccustomed to hard liquors need not be entrapped nor enticed. Good people and the smell of oranges and cloves suffice.
After the kids are in bed and the presents are all done up (or after the UPS truck delivered them pre-wrapped), there's another of those moments, the closest thing to ritual remaining to most of us religion-free types. The evergreens, the mistletoe and lights are ancient symbols of coming Spring and eternal life; an Egyptian from 3,000 years ago would recognize a Christmas tree's purpose instantly.
Yes, there is pervasive commercialism just this side of mind control, the distracted drivers running stoplights, the twisted and counter-twisted wires, facile vengeance of Chinese slave labor, maddeningly secure toys to cardboards. There are tiny screws, assemblies, plastics, packaging, disposal of same. There was having the house clean a grand total of 4 hours. But there is at least as much solstice as there is Santa, and there is having to wait until next year.